While the hope is that our society will eventually advance beyond all forms of prejudicial treatment, the truth is that discrimination is alive and well. Racial discrimination remains a significant problem, especially in the workplace. Unfortunately, people are still being denied employment, job promotions, and workplace benefits based on race. Although race discrimination in the workplace is strictly prohibited by Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, it can be very difficult to prove.
Forms of Racial Discrimination in the Workplace
Title VII governs virtually all aspects of employment, including job interviews, hiring, promotions, demotions, salary, benefits, scheduling, reprimands, discipline, training opportunities, and termination. Personnel who are subjected to a racially motivated adverse action at work may have recourse.
Types of Race Discrimination Claims
If you believe you have been victimized by race discrimination at work, you may want to file a complaint based on one of the following causes of action:
- Racially discriminatory Treatment – If your employer has intentionally subjected you to racial discrimination—e.g., by denying a promotion or terminating your employment because of your race or ethnic background—then you may have a case. Even if race discrimination is suspected, however, there must be proof that the adverse action was racially motivated. Evidence may be direct (e.g., negative comments about your race to you or someone else) or comparative (e.g., you were punished for activities that employees of other races engaged in without issue). Direct evidence is the strongest evidence that your employer acted illegally. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), which investigates workplace retaliation, also takes circumstantial evidence into account when making a determination about whether your employer acted illegally.
- Race Retaliation – If you were fired or otherwise punished by an employer for filing a race-discrimination complaint, you may have a retaliation claim. It is possible to prevail in a retaliation claim even if your initial complaint about race discrimination is not substantiated. Your right to file a discrimination complaint for suspected race discrimination is not dependent on whether there is actually evidence of that discrimination.
- Disparate Impact – This refers to discrimination resulting from a policy or practice that adversely affects members of certain races more than others. Disparate impact does not require any intent to discriminate. The widely cited Supreme Court case Griggs v Duke Power Co, 401 US 424 (1971) ruled that employment requirements (e.g., aptitude tests) that disparately impact members of ethnic minorities are illegal if the requirements are not “reasonably related” to employment responsibilities.
What Is a Prima Facie Case?
To prove race discrimination, an employee must begin by establishing a prima facie case of discrimination. To make such a case, the employee must be able to meet all four of the following conditions:
- The employee must be a member of a protected class (as defined by Title VII).
- The employee must be qualified for the job in question.
- The employer must have taken an adverse action against the employee (e.g., refusal to hire, denial of pay raise, termination).
- It must be reasonable to infer that the employef took the adverse action because of discriminatory beliefs or practices.
The purpose of requiring an employee to prove a prima facie case is to prevent frivolous claims that waste time and resources. After a prima facie case is established, the employer will be permitted to present their version of events. Usually, this will be an assertion that the adverse action was motivated by something other than discriminatory beliefs or practices.
If you believe you have been the victim of race discrimination by your employer, you need the services of an experienced employment attorney. Contact Barrett & Farahany, LLP, LLP, at (404) 238-7299 for a free consultation.